Community Safety Advisory Board recommends that counselors, unarmed civilians respond to most campus safety calls


Joshua Hoffman/Daily Senior Staffer

University leaders are evaluating ways to assign responsibilities away from police and towards unarmed civilian staff to “minimize the visible presence and dispatch of armed officers on campus,” the Community Safety Advisory Board said.

Jordan Mangi, Audio Editor

Northwestern’s Community Safety Advisory Board recommended the University send licensed counselors and unarmed civilian personnel to address the majority of campus safety and mental health situations in an email Friday.

Armed personnel like NUPD should be dispatched only when absolutely necessary, the board concluded.

New mental health initiatives included building a team of three to five trained mental health counselors who can respond to crisis events, particularly with students. This will almost always remove campus security from direct involvement in a mental health crisis situation, the email said. The University anticipates allocating an additional $300,000-$500,000 to hire and implement this team, according to the email. 

The board was created in fall 2020 to rethink policing on campus and advise University leadership on community safety and well-being. It was formed in response to student organizers’ demands to remove police from campus.

Undergraduate students, graduate students, post-docs, staff, alumni and faculty make up the board, which is co-chaired by Feinberg Prof. Clyde Yancy and Associate Provost of Diversity and Inclusion Robin Means Coleman.

The board invited all students and staff to confidentially provide thoughts on its progress and current findings in the email. The board encouraged community members to complete the feedback form by Friday, Oct. 15. 

In winter 2021, the board investigated results of an external review of the Department of Safety and Security. It then spent the spring in four groups discussing issues related to campus safety and devising actionable recommendations. 

The University has already begun to implement the board’s recommendations. The email, which detailed the new changes, highlighted four main categories: mental health, safety and security, handling of complaints and racial identifiers in crime notices. 

Safety and security updates mostly concerned transitioning to unarmed civilian leadership responses to campus safety issues. The board will also adopt a more holistic approach to safety, encompassing not just physical well-being but also environmental safety like fire prevention and indoor air quality.

The email also noted that complaints about safety and security will now go to University Compliance, a non-police-led review board, rather than the University’s Safety and Security department. Campus crime notices are also transitioning to using racial identifiers sparingly as a result of the board’s recommendations.

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Twitter: @jordanrose718

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